United Kingdom

Ex-model Melinda Messenger earned £120,000 in ONE DAY

Home comforts: Melinda Messenger has invested in property

Former glamour model Melinda Messenger earns a fraction of the money she used to receive in the late 1990s at the height of her fame. 

But she appreciates what she has more nowadays. 

The 49-year-old happily retrained as a psychotherapist and lives in Berkshire with children Morgan, 20, Flynn, 18 and Evie, 17. She spoke to DONNA FERGUSON. 

What did your parents teach you about money? 

That it was in short supply. It was a stressful message to be given at a young age, and, over the years, I've had to work to change the way I see money. My dad was a manager at WHSmith who retired early for health reasons. My mother was a stay-at-home mum who later became a secretary. My parents divorced when I was five. Money was tight for Mum. There were four of us children and I think she only had about £40 a week to live on. We had free school meals and there were winters when she couldn't afford to buy us coats. She would literally count every penny she had and there were times she skipped meals because she didn't have enough money. 

Did you ever go hungry? 

I don't remember going hungry. Mum was quite creative with meals, but I knew I could only eat what I was given – I couldn't just go to the fridge and make myself a snack. And if I ever got a new pair of shoes or something else new to wear, it would feel like Christmas. It made me want to earn money as an adult. At the time, I wasn't fully aware of how much that was a driving force for me. There was a lot of anxiety and fear in the house around money and I learned to equate money with freedom, safety and feeling secure.

Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? 

Yes, absolutely. In 2010, I lost everything and went through a difficult and stressful period when I wondered how I was going to make ends meet. I had invested in a business I knew nothing about but friends and family had wanted to set up. I acted as a guarantor and naively kept backing it until I ran out of money. It got liquidated and I lost around £250,000. 

That was a tough but important lesson. I experienced a financial crisis and at one point my house was about to be repossessed. I was having sleepless nights and crying pretty much every day. I had to work six days a week and all the hours there were to pull through. It lasted two years. Now, I look back and don't know how I coped. 

Have you ever been paid silly money? 

Yes. When I became famous in 1997 I got paid ridiculous amounts for photocalls while endorsing products. 

All I had to do was stand around for an hour being photographed and I'd be paid £20,000. The silliest amount of money I ever earned was when I did an advert for a phone company. It was one day's work – and I got £120,000. 

The phenomenal amounts blew my mind. I went from being a customer services manager earning £22,000 a year to being able to earn that much in an hour. I turned down millions of pounds of work, too, either because I couldn't accept it or it didn't feel right. It was a peculiar time for me. 

What was the best year of your financial life?

It was 2008. I probably earned around £400,000 that year. There was one particular TV job where I was paid £10,000 a day and I did that sort of thing regularly.

The most expensive thing you bought for fun?

An antique baby grand piano for £8,000 in 2005. It had been my childhood dream to have my own piano. But I sold it a year later. I felt so guilty about buying it because I never spent money on myself. I couldn't justify it. Now I've got a tiny Casio keyboard that cost £200. 

What is your biggest money mistake? 

Not valuing enough the money I was able to earn, and therefore giving it away far too easily. But I've learned from my mistakes. I retrained as a psychotherapist and now earn a tiny fraction of what I used to get paid. But I feel appreciative of what I do have. 

The best money decision you have made? 

Investing in property. I bought my first house at the age of 21 and I'm now on my 15th or 16th house purchase. I bought some for members of my family, others I renovated and sold. Every time I did this, I made a good profit.

Do you save into a pension? 

No. I put some money into a pension in 2008, but that was a one-off. I think it's better to invest in bricks and mortar than a pension, because with property you've got a tangible, physical asset. You can rent it out, or sell and cash it in. I get nervous about electronic pots of money I cannot control. 

Do you invest directly in the stock market? 

No. I have done – and got burnt, so I don't any more. I can't even remember what company I invested in, but I did it on the advice of friends and lost about £11,000. 

Do you own any property? 

Yes. I own my mum's house and my own – a little bungalow with four bedrooms on the edge of a wood in Berkshire. I bought it three years ago. I'd rather not say how much I paid, but I think it's probably gone up in value.

What is the one luxury you treat yourself to? 

Incense sticks called 'Nag Champa'. I buy in bulk – £15 for a big box – and burn one every day. 

If you were Chancellor, what would you do? 

I would invest more money into support and counselling services for young people suffering mental health problems. Waiting lists are huge and I don't think there is enough help available. I find it heartbreaking to learn of the numbers who feel suicidal or are close to the edge as a result of the pandemic. 

Do you donate money to charity? 

Yes. I support Launchpad, a charity helping homeless people get their lives back on track, either by providing accommodation or giving mental health support. 

What is your number one financial priority? 

To pay my bills and keep my family secure.   

Football news:

Jordan Henderson will miss at least 4-6 weeks due to a groin injury
Goals by Giroud, Mbappe and Mendy claim the title of the best in the first matches of the 1/8 final of the Champions League
Gladbach midfielder Neuhaus: You need to play bolder in the second leg against City
Bernardo Silva on Gladbach's goal: Headbutts are not my thing. I work hard on them
Thibaut Courtois: An away goal means a lot, but the second leg against Atalanta will be different
Giroud and Lewandowski - among the contenders for the title of player of the week in the Champions League
Midfielder Atalanta Pessina about 0:1 with Real Madrid: Well defended, but still missed